Saturday, June 28, 2014

Days Four and Five in Cape Town, Constantia and Stellenbosch Wine Routes!

Click here for the previous post in this series: Day Three in Cape Town - Two Oceans Aquarium and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

A wet and rather dreary two days are next! Unfortunately Day Four was quite a bummer as gale-force winds, overcast skies and rain meant our Robben Island ferry was cancelled yet again. Most outdoor activities were also a no-go so we went to brush up on some history at the nearby District Six Museum (R 30 or SGD 3.54 entry, additional R 15 or SGD 1.77 for a guided tour):

District Six Museum Cape Town
District Six Museum, Downtown Cape Town

Like us, you might have probably heard of the Apartheid policies in South Africa which promoted White Supremacy above all other ethnicities, in place until the 1990's. Visiting one of the many museums dedicated to the memory and healing of that racist era is a good way to sort of feel what it might have been like living in South Africa at the time.

The District Six Museum is dedicated to one aspect of Apartheid - Forced Removals. The government put urban planning policies in place dictating that whites and non-whites were to live in entirely separate neighbourhoods, so when they declared District Six a white-only neighbourhood all the non-whites were forcibly evicted from their homes and moved to other newer but crappier townships. Chilling stuff.

District Six Museum Cape Town
District Six Museum, Downtown Cape Town

The museum itself isn't that big, so once we're done we take a half hour drive to Hout Bay to see if we can catch one of the many Seal Island Boat Tours. There are two huge Cape Fur Seal colonies on islands not far off the Cape Peninsula, one of which is barely a 20 minute boat ride from Hout Bay. Sadly we arrive too late - the boats only go out in the mornings - so we just roam around and settle for a nondescript lunch of fried fish (not bad), fried calamari (not bad) and fried chips (horrendous) at the nearby Mariner's Wharf.

Cape Town Mariners Wharf Fish and Chips
Fish n Chips at the Mariner's Wharf

On a whim we take a short detour along the Constantia Wine Route and also a stop by one of the wine farms - Groot Constantia. If you're a wine lover you'll love this route - eight separate wineyards all offering wine tastings, sales and some pretty great restaurants! The darling and I are teetotallers though, so we just admire the scenery and marvel at the architecture. If I'm absolutely honest though ... I'd say that the Constantia route isn't worth visiting if you're not a wine drinker.

Cape Town Constantia Wine Route
Scenery along the Constantia Wine Route

For dinner we head over to the Grandwest Casino and Entertainment Complex. With almost twenty restaurants and bars, bowling lanes, cinema, skating rink, and (gasp!) no $100 entry fee to the casino, it's a great place to spend a night (and a lot of your hard earned cash).

Cape Town Grandwest Casino
Grandwest Casino, photo credit Magda's Manor

Onwards to Day Five, and an early trip back to Hout Bay for a second attempt at reaching the Seal Island! As you can see from the raincoat-wearing tourists in the photo, it's yet another gloomy, rainy day.

Cape Town Hout Bay Seal Island Ferry
Hout Bay Seal Island Ferry

Unfortunately we aren't able to reach the island itself due to 6-8 foot waves, so the boat turns back and circles the harbour area to at least give us a glimpse of some seals lazing away. I'm no animal expert but it does seem that Seals have a rather uncharacteristic acceptance of humans - they're perfectly happy just lazing around on man-made structures and boats.

Cape Town Hout Bay Seal Watching
Cape Town Hout Bay Seal Watching
Hout Bay Seal Watching

After that washout we head over to Stellenbosch. Of the two main wine routes we feel this one is better - nicer scenery, a proper Town with restaurants, curio shops, etc - and most importantly for us, more activities for the non-drinkers! Of particular note is the Spier Wine Estate, which offers up an Eagle Conservatory, Picnic Area (they also supply the picnic baskets), a hotel and spa, and a couple of restaurants.

Cape Town Eight Restaurant at the Spier Wine Farm
Eight Restaurant at the Spier Wine Farm

The Eight restaurant on the farm offers up a great selection of starters, mains and desserts, with most of the ingredients coming fresh from one of the many farms around the area.

Cape Town Spier Wine Farm Eagle Encounters
Black Pig (Kurobuta?!?) at Eagle Encounters

We mull the idea of paying a visit to the spa but decide instead on visiting Eagle Encounters (also on the Farm grounds). Eagle Encounters is primarily a conservatory - taking in Eagles, Falcons and other birds of prey which for various reasons came into human possession. The team then tries to rehabilitate these birds, train them to fly and hunt with the eventual aim of releasing them back into the wild. Some birds can't be released (example they were too young, or too injured): these get to live out their lives here.

Cape Town Spier Wine Farm Eagle Encounters
African Fish Eagle at Eagle Encounters

Your R 50 (SGD 5.71) entrance fee goes a remarkably long way. In addition to viewing the few dozen birds in their enclosures, you also get to watch the handlers teaching some of the birds to fly, pet a porcupine, and watch a secretary bird try to kick a fake snake to death.

Cape Town Spier Wine Farm Eagle Encounters
Secretary Bird at Eagle Encounters

There's also a mini petting zoo of sorts with a bunch of surprisingly chill owls, and for a nominal extra fee you also get to take photos holding one of the eagles - these birds are huge up close.

Cape Town Spier Wine Farm Eagle Encounters
Twiggy the Owl at Eagle Encounters

We then head back to Cape Town and visit the colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap. This area of the city has been dubbed the "Malay Quarter" after being the residence area of choice of many of Cape Town's Indonesian/Malaysian-descent peoples. The area really doesn't have much draw other than these colourful houses - it is an actual residential area after all.

Cape Town Bo-Kaap Malay Neighbourhood
Colourful Malay Neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap

It's around here when the clouds clear up a bit so we're finally able to catch a glimpse of Table Mountain! The winds are still near gale-force level so the aerial cableway is still closed, but we still need to do the touristy thing and take some selfies with one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!

Cape Town Foot of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
At the foot of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

I've got a snaking suspicion these yellow frame box things are sponsored by Nat Geo :)

Cape Town Table Mountain from Signal Hill
Table Mountain from Signal Hill

Dinner was a simple affair - some frozen foods from Woolworth's Food, cooked/heated up in the oven and on the stove back in the Service Apartment. Five days over in a blink of an eye!

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